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Retailers Step Up Waste Solution Effort

In an effort to support grocery retailers in developing and implementing food waste reduction strategies, ReFED, a multi-stakeholder nonprofit, partnered with the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA) and its members to launch the Retail Food Waste Action Guide.

The guide was created with input from more than 30 expert contributors, including major retailers such as: Ahold Delhaize USA; Albertsons; Kroger; Publix; Safeway; Target; Wegmans; Walmart; and Whole Foods finds. The research, which builds on ReFED’s 2016 report, A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent, found that food waste represents an $18.2 billion opportunity for grocers, and works to help implement food waste solutions, setting a clear path to achieve the national goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030.

“We’re seeing a major trend of retailers increasing focus on food waste,” Chris Cochran, executive director of ReFED, said in a news release. “What was once seen as a built-in cost of doing business is now viewed as a controllable expense and source of value. ReFED is partnering with retailers to put these waste solutions into action.”

Today, the United States wastes roughly 63 million tons, or $218 billion, of food annually, according to the report. Reducing food waste increases food security, spurs economic growth, and creates local jobs. For grocery retailers, food waste represents an $18.2 billion opportunity. 

Andrew Harig, senior director of sustainability, tax and trade with the Food Marketing Institute, on behalf of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance. said that the guide is a helpful tool for both retailers that are already engaged in food waste reduction, as well as those that are just starting out. 

“The Guide is undoubtedly an important new tool in retailers’ efforts to reduce food waste across the entire supply chain," he said in a news release." The Food Waste Reduction Alliance’s collaboration with ReFED has offered exciting new insights into the importance of active engagement to reduce food loss and we couldn’t be more pleased that the guide is the first product of this effort.”

Additionally, the Kroger Co. revealed that it has taken thing a step further, partnering with ReFed to help accelerate its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste vision.

"When we shared our bold Zero Hunger, Zero Waste initiative in September, we emphasized our plans to establish a $10 million Innovation Fund within The Kroger Co. Foundation to address hunger, food waste and the paradoxical relationship between the two," said Jessica Adelman, Kroger's group VP of corporate affairs. "Our newly-formed relationship with ReFED will challenge us to create the best strategy, structure and program to invest the funds in the most innovative solutions that will help end hunger in the communities we call home and eliminate waste in our company by 2025."

Meghan Stasz, GMA senior director of sustainability and a leader of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, said “The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is committed to reducing food waste and eliminating hunger across the country. The Food Waste Reduction Alliance was formed to encourage the sharing of best practices within and across industry segments."

Other executives with retailers involved in the research also voiced their support of the comprehensive review. Kathleen McLaughlin, chief sustainability officer for Walmart Stores, Inc., and president of the Walmart Foundation, shared that reducing food waste has become a key strategy for businesses to reduce cost while helping people become food secure, and the guide aligns with Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s work to reduce waste, including Walmart’s goal to achieve zero waste in the U.S. by 2025, and to provide four billion meals to individuals in need by 2020. 

 Darcie Renn, senior sustainability manager, Albertsons Companies, also voiced support for the initiative. 

“Grocery retailers have a great opportunity to lead the way in curbing food waste through the implementation of best practices,” she said. “As we continue to reduce waste in our operations, Albertsons Companies is pleased to have contributed to ReFED’s guide that will support all retailers in their efforts to tackle this issue.” 

The Retail Food Waste Action Guide’s key findings include:

  • On average, the value of wasted food in retail is equal to roughly double the profits from food sales.
  • Prevention solutions such as dynamic pricing and markdowns have the highest profit potential.
  • Retailers can increase food donations to provide nearly 1.2 billion more meals.
  • New digital technologies such as ride-sharing platforms and chain-of-custody records are being applied to food waste through solutions like Dynamic Routing and Cold Chain Management.
  • Low-cost solutions, such as standardized date labeling, already exist and are easy to implement.

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